If Rodney Dangerfield were still alive to make a list of cars that also suffer from his famous catchphrase, the Kia K900 and Cadenza would have a couple of well-deserved spots on the docket. Kia's two largest sedans never quite caught got the respect they deserved here in the United States.
So it's not all that surprising that, according to Car and Driver, both K900 and Cadenza are being discontinued in the American market for the 2021 model year. But it is a little disappointing.
If you're having trouble remembering the last time you saw either of these Kias — or even having trouble remembering what they look like — don't beat yourself up about it. Last year, Kia moved less than 1,600 copies of the sedans combined in the United States; even in the coronavirus-free year of 2019, the brand moved just 2020 examples of Cadenza and K900. That's fewer cars than Lamborghini sold in America that year.
Those low sales certainly weren't a result of bad product, however. The K900 in particular is — or rather, was — a rather exceptional luxury sedan of the old-school tradition, trafficking more in quiet comfort, a supple ride and effortless power than in sporty handling that effectively beat the Lexus LS at its historic mission of offering a world-class flagship sedan for less than the competition.
Closely related to the Genesis G90 beneath the skin, it originally offered a similar mix of powertrains as that model, but by the end came solely with a twin-turbo V6 making 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque and all-wheel-drive. More importantly, it came all but fully-loaded at its $60,935 base price, replete with an exquisite interior that looked worthy of a car twice the price; the sole option of note, a $4,400 VIP package, outfitted it for chauffeur duty with added rear seat features, but even so equipped, it cost roughly $30,000 less than a basic Mercedes-Benz S-Class (and, perhaps more relevant to its cancellation, almost $10K less than a base G90).
The Cadenza was less prestigious, but still worthy of note for those rare customers still interested in large, premium-but-not-luxurious sedans like the Toyota Avalon — the type of vehicle Buick and Oldsmobile used to specialize in. Indeed, the basic layout looks an awful lot like the Avalon: a 3.3-liter naturally-aspirated V6 making 290 hp and 253 lb-ft, connected to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic. But while the Avalon (and Nissan Maxima, the other remaining car in this segment in America) have gone for wild, aggressive looks seemingly at odds with the desires of septuagenarian buyers and Uber drivers, the Cadenza stuck with a more conservative, elegant design.
Still, the Cadenza also suffered from being too close to a Genesis. The G70 may be smaller, but its rear-wheel-drive (or optional AWD) layout and sportier mission put it closer to the remaining, albeit diminished, heart of the entry-level luxury sedan market. It's almost $2,000 cheaper in base form, and the very luxurious Elite trim level is just a couple grand more than the Cadenza's top-shelf version.
Both cars had the misfortune of being sedans in a market that now idealizes SUVs and pickup trucks instead — indeed, Kia told C/D that the change was in large part due to buyer preferences for crossovers and the like — but it seems hard not to view something else as being the primary factor behind their cancellation. In a better world where people didn't judge books by their covers, it wouldn't matter, but the biggest obstacle keeping both Cadenza and K900 from success was arguably the Kia logo. While the brand has made incredible strides in improving its image over the last decade, for many a buyer, the name and badge simply don't have the cache worthy of a luxury car price — even if the product is worth it.